Reducing our impact to tackle climate change

As today is World Environment Day (5 June), we’re taking time to think about our organisation’s impact on the environment and what we are doing to tackle climate change.

Over the last year, our Carbon Positive team has been working hard to reduce our carbon emissions in NRW, as well as helping others in the Welsh public sector do the same.

Here, Silas Jones, Carbon Positive Project Manager, tells us what the team has been up to and their plans for the future.

Our bigger, bolder, broader ambition to tackle climate change

Over the past 12 months, we’ve seen a significant shift in people’s attitudes towards climate change.

In 2019, protests swept across the world, as demonstrators, many of them school children, demanded world leaders take urgent action on the escalating climate emergency.

Here in Wales, the Welsh Government joined hundreds of other local and international authorities in declaring a climate emergency. 

Witnessing these global events unfold, at NRW we took the decision to support the Welsh Government in its declaration.  This provided us with an opportunity to take stock and to evaluate what our own actions ought to be and where we should focus our attention.  We agreed that our ambitions for tackling our contribution to climate change should be bigger, bolder and broader than ever before.

Identifying our climate change priorities

To support the Welsh Government’s climate emergency declaration, our Board asked the Carbon Positive team and Clive Walmsley, Lead Specialist Advisor: Climate Change & Decarbonisation, to put our heads together and come up with priority areas of work we want to deliver that could make a real difference not only to our own emissions, but also to those of other organisations across Wales.

The list was endorsed by the NRW Board in July, committing us to scope and cost the following projects:

  • Deep peat restoration
  • Woodland creation
  • Renewable energy generation
  • Roll-out of electric vehicle infrastructure and vehicles
  • Low carbon heat and energy efficiency in our buildings and assets
  • Tackling procurement related emissions, which account for almost two-thirds of our operational greenhouse gas emissions
  • Influencing external emission reduction across Wales, by:
    • extending decarbonisation support and advice to Welsh Government, Welsh public sector bodies and Public Sector Boards
    • working with Welsh Government to understand our potential role considering carbon in planning, permitting and regulatory regimes
    • implementing behaviour change including staff engagement to embed consideration of carbon across NRW and beyond
    • evaluating and communicating the current impacts of climate change to stimulate further public debate and support for rapid decarbonisation to minimise future impacts

These priorities were presented to the First Minister and the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs. As a result, projects such as peatland restoration and woodland creation have been funded through Welsh Government.   

We are continuing discussing with Welsh Government about the future ambition to decarbonise Wales and NRW’s role, including how some of our other priorities are funded and delivered.

Getting staff involved

Carbon Positive team member

To help embed consideration of carbon reduction in our organisation’s culture, we have encouraged colleagues across NRW to talk to us about the mitigation measures that are important to them.

During #TeamNRW Day last November, Carbon Positive and Clive Walmsley delivered a workshop inviting staff to come up with ideas for improving energy efficiency and opportunities for active and sustainable travel, with the aim of delivering the most viable and impactful suggestions.  We received a fantastic response and selected three mitigation measures to take forward:

  • Purchasing two new e-bikes for our offices, to encourage staff to make more active and sustainable travel choices
  • Upgrading to more efficient pumps at our Cynrig fish hatchery
  • Improving insulation and tightening window catches at our Rivers House office

While the latter two projects have been delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we’re hopeful that we’ll be able to deliver them this financial year.    

We received a high volume of suggestions and, although we were unable to deliver them all before the end of the financial year, we have collated them and will be sharing them with the relevant teams, so that they can be considered further.

Establishing an NRW Decarbonisation Change Programme

Historically, the team’s programme of work was governed by the Carbon Positive Steering Group, which provided oversight and direction for the project. But in the wake of both the climate emergency and a review of Business Boards and sub-groups, it was decided that a broader approach was needed. 

In light of this, the Climate Change and Decarbonisation Change Programme Board was established, which will look at delivery on an organisation-wide level, rather than focus solely on the Carbon Positive Project.  The Board is currently overseeing the development of a work programme for 2020/21. 

New team members

We welcomed two new team members in 2019, to help us deliver our commitments. Mefty Haider and Peter Edwards both joined us as specialist advisers last summer. 

Mefty has been focussing on developing a strategic Action Plan to set out identified mitigation measures for decarbonisation across NRW.  He is currently focussing on considering decarbonisation within procurement, which accounts for the majority of our operational emissions, and projects relating to reducing fleet emissions, including researching biodiesel and trialling an electric utility terrain vehicle (UTV).

Peter’s work has concentrated on the delivery of renewable energy generation, electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure and introducing Building Energy Management Systems (BeMS) at our Bwlch Nant yr Arian and Resolven sites, to help us manage our buildings’ energy consumption more efficiently.  He has also worked with Operations colleagues to develop a trial of commercial battery technology in operational equipment including hedge trimmers and strimmers.

Action plan

Last year, our Enabling Plan, which sets out NRW’s high-level ambition for decarbonisation, was endorsed by the NRW Board. More recently, we have developed an Action Plan that sets out how we will deliver our decarbonisation ambitions described in our Enabling Plan.

The Action Plan will prioritise the mitigation measures our organisation will take, initially covering the period 2017-2022 to align with the NRW Corporate Plan.

The Action Plan is based on the evidence we’ve collected to evaluate which mitigation options to take forward and will be key for developing internal goals and targets.

It will also help to embed carbon reduction in our organisation’s processes, decisions, spending and culture.


Clive Walmsley and Carbon Positive have been developing a regional approach to supporting the wider public sector to decarbonise. 

The Welsh Government has published a draft methodology and guidance for calculating public sector emissions - an approach heavily informed by the work carried out by Carbon Positive.  

The team has been leading decarbonisation workshops with a regional cluster of five Public Service Boards (PSB) in the south east who have established ‘Climate Ready Gwent’. 

Clive Walmsley presented the Carbon Positive project to a meeting of the North Wales PSBs, and other regional workshops are planned.  


An 8kWp solar PV system has been installed at our Buckley office and 4.7kWp system at Talybont. These will generate approximately 10,500kWh a year and are expected to save 9 tonnes of CO2e annually. However, plans to install a larger 30kWp scheme at Cynrig had to be postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.  

Planning applications for further PV schemes at our Clawddnewydd office and Coed y Brenin visitor centre have been submitted, while design work and surveys have been completed for our Rivers House and Llys Afon offices. 

Subject to funding and Covid-19 restrictions being lifted, our aim is to have these five schemes, with a combined capacity of approximately 100kWp, installed in 2020/21.

EV infrastructure rollout

Although the planned rollout Electric Vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure has been delayed due to key staff shortages, our work to date has included working collaboratively with Mechanical, Electrical, Instrumentation, Control and Automation (MEICA) and Facilities teams to review the existing EV installations across the business and rectify historic issues.  

The project has also involved working with Wellbeing Health and Safety to develop policy and consider how we move forward using common principles of installation.

In addition, we developed the framework and principles for designing EV infrastructure, and have designed EV charging infrastructure for our Buckley office, with ground works of charging for 22 vehicles installed before the car park was resurfaced. 

Utility Terrain Vehicle demonstration project

Utility terrain vehicle

To support our corporate commitment to decarbonise our fleet, we purchased an electric utility terrain vehicle (UTV) as a demonstration project in March. We are trialling it as a potential replacement for our both diesel and petrol four-wheel drive off-road vehicles.

Reducing our procurement emissions

Currently, almost two-thirds of our operational emissions are related to procurement and, given that they are generated by us indirectly via our contractors, they’re the most challenging source of emissions to tackle. 

To address this issue, we’ve been working with our colleagues in Procurement to implement the use of a Carbon Planning Tool in some of our high-value contracts. 

We have also secured funding for a role to develop the tools and a methodology for reducing emissions in our supply chain with them.  

What’s next?

We have plans to expand our renewable energy generation in 2020/21, initially focussing on the five remaining solar photo-voltaic (PV) schemes at Cynrig, Clawdd Newydd, Coed y Brenin, Rivers House and Llys Afon. We will also be assessing the potential for further solar PV at other sites, as well as trialling other technologies such as battery storage.

We’ll be working towards completing a delivery plan and site design plans for the EV charging infrastructure to meet NRW’s fleet requirements.

We will be working with our Procurement team to further address decarbonising NRW’s supply chain and the procurement process using key contracts as case studies, including evaluation criteria and monitoring Key Performance Indicators.

We’ll be working with our Assets team to understand what would be required to deliver energy efficient and low carbon buildings by 2030 and identifying a suitable energy performance standard to work towards. Through recruiting an Energy Manager, we will also consider options for the future ‘smart’ integration of building heating systems, EV charging infrastructure, renewables and battery storage.

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You can find out more about Carbon Positive here, or get in touch if you have a question.

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